Professional’s Guide to Understanding China

I had been hearing a lot about China for the past many years. Mostly, my understanding was based on the news from US & European media and to some extent from the Indian press. The news, either was dominated by over-optimism of the Chinese Economic miracle or by pessimism of an economic collapse or sometimes by concerns of national security & impending conflicts.

This swinging pendulum often confused me and I am sure many of you will agree. China for long had been a closed country and the cold war paranoia didn’t help. The sudden opening up of the economy has helped Chinese and global economies to establish deep ties. But the gap in understanding Chinese economy, business environment, politics, culture, and society still remains.

India & China are neighbors with the potential for bilateral trade to cross US & China’s in the coming decades. But I feel that people from both sides seem not to have a good grasp of the other. In fact, people from both countries have a far better understanding of US than each other.

China is here to stay. Sooner or later, most professionals will encounter Chinese as potential suppliers, clients, business partners, colleagues & even make a few friends. Although the best way to start understanding a different culture/society is by learning the local language. However, for a lot of working professionals with packed schedules taking a significant time out to learn Mandarin might be a bit difficult.  For the enthusiasts,  better get enrolled in the nearest Confucius Institute.

For the rest, I have shared my own experience of how I went about exploring China. It initially started as a curiosity, but later I became engrossed in learning more and more. It was quite haphazard for me….so, I have given it a bit of structure

China and the World

Books form an important component of this journey as Chinese history, society and political-economic system has evolved very differently. There is a need for depth to understand & analyze any news/information regarding the Middle Kingdom. My only suggestion is to keep an open mind.

Books that I have read:

Dealing with China by Henry Paulson Jr (By far the most comprehensive)

China’s Disruptors: How Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent, and Other Companies are Changing the Rules of Business by Edward Tse (Focuses on the changes happening in the Chinese Economy)

The Hundred-Year Marathon by Michael Pillsbury

Alibaba’s World by Porter Erisman

The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics by Andrew Small

The Himalayan Face-Off by Shishir Gupta

 

Other Books that I recommend:

One Child  Policy: China’s Radical Social Experiment by Fong Mei

Taiwan’s China Dilemma by Syaru Shirley Lin

Will Africa feed China? by Deborah Brautingam

Apart from books, I really recommend watching Al Jazeera’s documentary series 101 East. There are quite a few episodes on China. The Wired UK documentary on Shenzhen was also interesting.

In addition, you can follow USC US-China Institute & Hudson Institute YouTube Channels. Discussions cover a variety of topic (although they can a bit boring sometimes). You can a shorter version of the above books in video discussions.

You can also follow Chinese state media like CCTV International (for the latest Panda Videos), China People’s Daily & Xinhua. Or get counter perspectives from NTD TV.

There a few issues which will decide the direction China is going to take. It is good  to get an idea to keep yourself up to date with them:

  • China’s Anti-Corruption movement
  • Chinese economic reforms under President Xi Jinping
  • One Belt One Road Initiative
  • Chinese business expansion in African Continent
  • China Debt Bubble (estimated to be 300% of GDP)
  • Overcapacity in Real Estate & Infrastructure
  • Aging Population (Negative impact of One Child Policy)
  • The South China Sea (Potential conflict with its neighbors Philippines, Vietnam and US)
  • The East China Sea (Potential conflict with Japan & US)
  • Indo-China border issue

 

Hope this helps !!

The Power of Empathy

The literal definition to empathy is the ability to understand & share the feelings of others. On merely reading the definition, you don’t get the deep underlying message of it. Mind you, this is one of the most profound human feeling that one can possess. It has a deep connotation that is often given short shrift by those who don’t really care to understand its true meaning since it requires a perceptive understanding of human behavior driven by a spectrum of emotions ranging from envy, rage to love, affection & a lot more.

Lord Mahaveera, the 24th Tirthankar to the Jain Community stated, Empathy(Samyak) is an emotion that differentiates a human from other species. With regards to Empathy, he drew a slew of conclusions for humans to better understand it & adopt it in their way of life. Empathy is very different from the emotion ‘Sympathy’ or ‘pity’. The former means to understand others while the latter means sorrow for the misfortunes of others. Human beings, with their convoluted & inexplicable behavior & their innate selfish tendencies, often draw a false equivalence between the above two emotions. Lord Mahveera stated that the sheer ability to understand people from a position of privilege is far more receptive than the ability to understand them when they are in obvious pain or misery.

Empathy calls for understanding people in all the possible scenarios and not just when they are in pain or misery. This is because, we humans normally behave in a consistent manner when subjected to agony but when we have more choices from a position of privilege, often our decisions are motivated by our latent desires & wishes. We tend to be unreasonable to others in our decision making, causing a wide-range of emotions from bitterness to anger, to envy, from the people who are directly or indirectly affected by the decision. Here, exhibiting empathy towards others is of utmost importance. Whether you are one inflicting unintended distress to others or  you are subject of that distress. Empathy, helps us in reaching common ground, if not with the perpetrator but with our ego, aiding us in reconciling with the limited options at our grace & choosing the most appropriate one.

The primary difference between Sympathy & Empathy is visible not when you are at peace with yourself feeling pity & sorry for the misfortunes of the underprivileged ones, but when you are affected negatively by someone & yet choosing to maintain your calm by trying to analyze & understand the situation rather than satiating the irresistible desire to respond back. Empathy is a warrior of difficult times, it tests your patience, your ability to grasp situation especially when things go south, & your desire to understand the whimsical living beings around you without bearing a shred of bitterness in your heart.

In fact, Lord Mahaveera goes on to expound that the cornerstone of basic virtues required of any living being to elevate & become a Tirthankar is Empathy. Unless one is empathetic towards every living being, one cannot understand the True meaning of life & will always be stuck in the worldly affairs of happiness, sorrows, envy, arrogance etc. To liberate from the clutches of these emotions & attain nirvana, one needs to first whole-heartedly espouse Empathy & practice it in his/her daily life. Though this emotion is ephemeral, & sustaining such a novel & powerful emotion requires a lot more than willpower. It requires conscious efforts to keep this emotion alive in the face of adversity because our rage & ego often gets the better of us. Our anger & agony seldom renders us in a calm state of mind where we can determine what’s right & what’s not. It also requires understanding people in the way that we have never done before. To go an extra mile & think from their perspective.

Empathy liberates your soul. It not only differentiates you from other living beings, but also from the human beings around. In this world of excessive hubris & vanity, Empathy has the power of keeping you grounded. Tolerance is an intrinsic factor of Empathy. Without being tolerant one cannot expect to manifest empathy. Tolerance shapes your behavior towards others in the demanding situation, it is easy to show indifference when things don’t bother us but once they start bothering us, it is the tolerance that keeps us in check. As someone has rightly said, a man’s character is judged by the way he reacts in a crunch situation & this character of his is defined by one of the very few basic virtues that include empathy.

Lessons from the ‘Founder’ of McDonald’s

Recently, I  caught a movie about a 52-year-old  diabetic man, who is suffering from incipient arthritis. He has lost his gall bladder & thyroid gland to previous business battles and is struggling to sell a multispindle milkshake mixer (Multimixer) to restaurant owners across America in the 1950’s.

His name was Ray Kroc and he was the creator of what we know today as the omnipresent McDonald’s.

Although the movie was not well-received it was really interesting to watch the not sugar coated biopic. The movie got me interested in knowing more about this ‘Founder’

There had to be more to the story of the Godfather of the fast food business. So, I got my hands on his autobiography “Grinding It Out” and without a doubt, it is one of the best books that I have read.

It is a must read for budding entrepreneurs and professionals alike.

Book Review - Grinding It Out

 

Here are 6 powerful lessons that you can learn from Ray Kroc’s  life and career :

Persistence

Ray Kroc always believed that it was sheer hardwork and unrelenting perseverance that leads to success.

There is a quote in the movie as well as the book that sums it up –

” Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. “

Persistence also includes your unwavering faith in your moral belief system. Ray Kroc said that his philosophy was one helping his customers, and if he couldn’t sell them by helping them improve their own sales, then he wasn’t doing his job. This philosophy is was carried on by Kroc is what drove the symbiotic relationship between McDonald’s corporate and the franchisees.

Age doesn’t matter

A lot of budding entrepreneurs and professionals want instant success and get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way that they had planned. Ray Kroc was not highly educated, but Grinded it out in the field, juggling multiple jobs as a salesman and a piano player. He grabbed opportunity wherever he could and was happy working hard day and night. Each and every phase in his life prepared him for what was going to be a once a lifetime opportunity. Age didn’t matter to him. He kept on working even when McDonald’s had become a success story and he was finding it difficult to walk. He went on to buy a baseball team “San Diego Padres” at the age of 72 and became a philanthropist.

His success story is an example of how opportunity can come knocking at your door any time. All one has to do is to see it and be ready to take advantage. Life is a roller coaster ride. Success is not an end goal, but an eventuality of the journey itself.

Life is not fair

Ray Kroc had tried and failed on multiple occasions. He was a successful salesman, whether it was selling real estate, paper cups or a weird looking milkshake makers. But he never could really taste success. Whether it was because the collapse of the real estate market or the bad deals that he was forced to make. Ray Kroc’s first wife Ethel was supportive initially but was flabbergasted at his decision to go all in for McDonald’s. Sometimes in your life you will be the only person who believes in something and life will not be easy – Don’t loose sight of your goal.

Learn & Adapt to changes

In the world of business you rarely get ideal situation to work. Ray Kroc was saddled by a deal with the McDonald’s brothers which he thought was unfair. However, he adapted to change his business model into leasing of land for McDonald’s restaurants than just franchising. This idea gave him a distinct advantage when it came to negotiations with franchisees and later on with the McDonald’s brothers

As Ray Kroc shared with MBA students of university of Texas in 1974 –

” We are not in the Hamburger business, we are in the Real Estate business “

They also continuously adapted to changes. One unique thing was how Ray Kroc and his team took ideas from franchisees across the country to create new menu items. The famous Filet-O-Fish, the Big Mac, Egg McMuffin are ideas that came from the franchisees and are served in almost every McDonald’s  in the world.

Ruthless Pragmatism

Maurice “Mac” & Richard “Dick” McDonald’s where the original founders of McDonald’s. But they were content with their original restaurant and afraid of franchising. They were also very conservative in their approach to changes in business. Ray Kroc saw the potential of the speedy service and family-oriented model of the McDonald’s brothers.   But he was saddled with an unfair agreement. After years of negotiating with the brothers unsuccessfully, Kroc took a drastic step to outwit them by gaining control of leasing agreements of all McDonald’s franchises. The McDonald brothers lost control of their corporation and had to settle for $2.7 million.

Although this can be characterized as being nasty, after reading his book I felt that his moves were dictated by his previous unfair agreement with his boss at Lily Cup when Kroc was forced to share his profits on the Multimixer sales with him. This led to the downfall of his last business venture and Kroc never wanted to repeat the mistake. Also, $2.7 million in the 1960’s was a lot of money and I feel that he was fair in this deal. In the end it was best for the business. As Ray Kroc himself said –

” I believe in God, family, and McDonald’s – and in the office, that order is reversed “

Gut feeling matters

Ray Kroc once fired a member of his staff because he didn’t wear the right kind of hat and didn’t keep his shoes shined. He agreed that this kind of decision seemed arbitrary, but it was based on his years of experience in the field. He explains that an astute judgment can seem arbitrary to everyone  but the man who makes it. A lot of his big decisions including the one to go all out and mortgage his home for the McDonald’s franchisee business was based on Gut feeling about an idea. Random & unstructured they might be, but do not ignore your gut feelings.

For all those who missed the film, Check out the Trailer

This article was originally published on YourStory.

From the Dragon’s Heart: The Rise of Chinese Entrepreneurs

The rise of China as a Global power has become are more visible in India today, as Chinese Businesses have made increasing inroads into the Indian market in the past few years. With India becoming the world’s fastest growing economy and poised to continue this path for a decade, Chinese Entrepreneurs are looking to invest in India & bring along their own way of doing business.

In such a scenario, I revisit the book – China’s Disruptors written by Edward Tse in 2015.

The book not only talks about well-known players in India like Alibaba, Xiaomi, Lenevo, Baidu (Search Engine) & Tencent (WeChat) but also not so well known companies like online supermarket Yihaodian, Noah Wealth Management started by Wang Jingo, Real estate giants like Wanda Corporation & Broad Group and China’s very own YouTube – Youku.

A lot of what the author had said about China’s Entrepreneurial culture and Chinese Entrepreneurs is more relevant for the Desi Players today. The reasons are multi-fold:

1. Chinese manufacturers are looking to set-up shop in India: With increasing labor costs in China and anti-dumping duties, major manufacturers of smartphones, solar panels are getting attracted to India’s labor pool and domestic market.

2. Chinese Investors: As Chinese economy slows down, investors are looking for new opportunities in growth. India is right now where China was in 2004 and is the destination to invest for the coming decade.

3. Chinese Internationalisation: Chinese SOEs & Entrepreneurs have been making huge in-roads in the US markets through big-ticket acquisitions. Their strategies will be replicated in India too.

4. Experience of Chinese Counterparts: Lessons from Chinese entrepreneurs who successfully challenged their western counterparts.

What we can learn –

1. A policy focused Forum: India has multiple traditional business forums like NASSCOM, CII & FICCI but it is time, that the new age entrepreneurs of India get a voice of their own in shaping the direction India moving in. The China Entrepreneurs form (CEF) with its serious policy focus even in a restrictive political environment is something we should take inspiration from.

2. Sustainable manufacturing practices: As “Make in India” initiative tries to make us the next manufacturing hub, let’s just take a step back and analyse the mistakes done by China when it comes to the Environment. Polluted cities, un-breathable air and rising healthcare costs are things we can avoid

3. Ditch the Jugaad: The cutthroat competition among Chinese companies made continuous improvement and innovation a necessity to stay ahead of the curve. Sometimes entrepreneurs are even forced to find new opportunities in different areas, as they were never sure of a safe source of constant revenue, which won’t be challenged. Indian traditional businesses have not faced such a challenge before. With increasing Chinese inroads into the market its time to change our approach or perish.

4. Focus on local needs: The author emphasised that the Chinese counterparts were able to outwit their western counterparts because they focused on creation of products & services, which are more in line with local needs rather than just copying the business models of the west. This is how Alibaba was able to beat Ebay and Hengan international challenged the likes of P&G and Kimberly-Clark. However, their Indian counterparts haven’t been so successful in creating such kind of new value-added services and are facing tough competitions – Ola vs Uber, Flipkart & Snapdeal vs Amazon.

What the author missed –

1. IP Laws: The author did mention the lax IP laws in China. But, even giants like Apple are facing issues in getting required help from Chinese Judiciary as they are challenged by little-known startups making knock-offs. In time as Chinese entrepreneurs grow bigger, they will demand better IP Protection. How this shapes up is yet to be seen.

2. The Real-estate Bubble & Overcapacity: China has become infamous for its Ghost Towns. Even private investors are raising alarm bells as the extent of the debt bubble is becomes clearer with estimates saying that the Debt to GDP ratio has crossed 250%. How will this impact the Chinese startup world, is not yet known.

3. Solar Industry: The one sector that the author did not cover was China’s push into Renewable energy – mostly solar PV manufacturing and installations. Chinese giants like Trina, Jinko, Yingli & JA Solar dominate the world PV market. China also added a staggering 34 GW of solar installations in 2016 alone (compared with around 4.8 GW in India). With increasing domestic as well as global for PV Panels, these giants are poised to be major revenue centres of the future.

4. SOEs & the State remain the dominant players: The author’s focus was on the decreasing importance of SOEs in China’s economy. While this was true for the domestic economy, SOEs will play even greater role in China’s outreach to the world. The famous One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR) is primarily driven by SOEs. Almost all major overseas investments were done by SOEs. These include $46 billion in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and $15 billion mostly in Hambantota & Colombo Ports in Srilanka.

Nonetheless, Edward Tse’s book remains extremely important for Businessman, Policy Makers, Entrepreneurs & Professionals who wish to learn about how China’s disruptors are shaping our future.

The article was originally published on YourStory.

Donald Trump & Abortion rights

How the Trump Administration should approach Abortion Rights

I have been a keen observer of US Politics for quite sometime now. It always reassures me to see that Indian democracy is not the only one which suffers from ‘Policy Paralysis’, thanks to the unending bickering of 2 major national parties. However, ever since Donald Trump got elected the media coverage of what the President is going to do has captured people’s attention. Apart from Trade, Taxes & Obama Care, one major domestic issue on his radar seems to be overturning Roe v. Wade.

Abortion Rights has been one the most divisive issues in US politics. The Pro-life and Pro-Choice camp have been at each other’s throats since the judgment came in 1973. For now, the Democrats and Women’s right groups are worried that POTUS is going to appoint a “pro-life” Supreme Court Judge to overturn the case. Once that happens, individual states will get the rights to enact Abortion Laws, which means that women in quite a few states might loose their reproductive rights. State laws have already contributed to closing a number of abortion clinics thanks to the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case which allowed states to create restrictions as long as they don’t place a substantial obstacle in the path of seeking an abortion. John Oliver previously covered this in detail.

The objective of this article is not to go over the merits or demerits of the law or talk about Women’s rights vs the rights of the state. On the other hand, I have tried to look into this from strictly a “POLICY OBJECTIVE” point of view. Being from a foreign country, who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, I am giving this a shot.

For many decades now the Right of center has been fighting the courts, Planned Parenthood and Democrats as they feel that abortions are akin to killing basing it on their religious views. The way they have gone about it is using “Dis-incentivizing” policy techniques. This included making abortions difficult or even illegal and putting legal, social, financial & medical hurdles in front of Doctors, Clinics and pregnant women. So, has this strategy worked?

Abortion figures USA

Well, it is very difficult to say. In the past decade (mostly during the Obama Administration), the number of abortions have dropped by 20%.

But at the same time, the number of teenage pregnancies (Age 15-19) have also dropped dramatically. The Atlantic looked into these figures, but came up with multiple reasons: abortion restrictions, Obamacare & access to birth control along with the decreasing teenage pregnancies.

Teenage pregnancies US

The Pro-Lifers should actually be looking at this as a major success. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case as the data is getting lost in partisan & religious politics.

However, for Pro-Lifers, messing up with Roe v. Wade, Obamacare & Planned Parenthood might backfire. If the Republicans actually overturn Roe v. Wade (which for 4 decades was only a political rhetoric), a future Democrat Administration will definitely try to overturn it again. And this time, the other side will make it more difficult for the Republicans to tinker with it. A future Democrat administration will definitely also try to weaken Planned Parenthood v. Casey case if they see the Republicans today getting too extreme under pressure from the Alt-Right & Pro-Life groups.

Getting in to the extremes and forcing laws which many Women see as trampling on their basic rights will negatively impact Republicans in the next election cycle. If the support for #WomensMarch is anything to go by, this a dangerous move.

So, what should Pro-Lifers? – Try Incentivizing policies than Dis-incentivizing

Objective of the Republican Party: To reduce the number of abortions in the US

Details: Convince more women to not undergo an abortions at any point during the pregnancy

Exceptions: Cases of sexual assault or Danger to the mother’s life

Catch: Create a system that can be accepted by Democrats & Women’s right groups

Views on Legality of Abortion – Gallup Survey May 2015

Views on Legality of Abortion – Gallup Survey May 2015

What forces expectant mothers to decide against having her child? Simple – Economics!!

Teenage mothers & many single women simply find it difficult to sustain financially. Breaking the costs down:

 

1)  Cost of deliveryAs Vox news recently found out : Hospital cost $16k , Insurance negotiated price was $8k and they paid $841. This is for a non-complicated birth and for women with insurance.

 What happens to the 11% un-insured women? (Declined from 17% in 2013)

What happens when Obamacare is replaced with something which reduces health insurance coverage? Or if the premiums go up?

2) If the mother is a single woman or working – Day care is absolutely essential. This costs $11,666 per year ($972 a month) on an average.

Who pays for all this?

3) For teenage pregnancies – they might have to choose between keeping a child and going to school/college and getting an education to get the right job.  74% of women who have abortions say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities. Only a few colleges and hardly any school provide these facilities.

The only way the Pro-Lifers can incentivize women to not have an abortion is by reducing the financial burden.

In the replacement for Obamacare, add compulsory low premium insurance for expectant mothers. The premium payments can also be deferred for a few years down the line giving the new mothers a financial breather.

The Pro-Lifers can also push for legislations to give subsidies to mothers having children below the age of 10 so that they could afford better day care centres. This will not only help the existing mothers but all also the day care industry as a whole, by increasing business and improving standards.

To reduce the abortions by teenagers in schools and college, make it compulsory for schools and colleges to tie-up with a day care centre and provide free child support to the female students.

If you want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies – just make contraception more affordable and available. This argument actually helps the “Family / Pro-Life” Groups who wants to reduce the number of single mothers. Reducing teenage pregnancies by better access to contraception is a no-brainer.

One last thing. Rather than dismantling Planned Parenthood, why not use the well-established institution with a nationwide network to actually implement the “Incentivizing Policy”.

Something to think about.

Full disclosure: I am not an American. Personally, I feel that the State should not interfere in such issues.

The book that I could never read

It’s Jan 19th and people are talking about Kashmir again. But today, the media will not be focusing on the ON & OFF protests in the valley, but on one of the largest internally displaced persons (IDP) group in India.

I took this opportunity to revisit a book that I had got my hands on a few years ago – Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita.

The book is about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits who were Hindu minority in a Muslim majority Kashmir in India. The author himself is a Kashmiri Pandit and has clearly written the book from his heart. The book has multiple stories woven within the narrative of the 14 year old author who is forced to leave his home after terrorism in Kashmir picks up and morphs into ethnic cleansing.

The author describes the event on the tragic night of Jan 19, 1990 in detail. He then goes into parallel storylines of what was happening across Kashmir. He mentions stories of his family members, friends and acquaintances who are all warped into this. He also delves into the history of past atrocities against Kashmiri Pandits.

What makes the book difficult to read are the short personal stories that the author gathered from his years of interacting with the community. None of it ends well. There is violence, death, rape & betrayal of the worst kind. It signified the end of Kashmiriyat as the brotherhood that had earlier bound Kashmir together, had all but vanished.

Truth be told, I never had the courage to completely read this book. I just wasn’t able to read anymore. The pain seemed very real to me and I couldn’t bear myself to complete the book as I knew how it all ends.

As per the Internally Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC), more than 1 lac Kashmiri Pandits are living in and around New Delhi and 2.4 lac in Jammu city. The community has struggled a lot since the exodus with protecting their culture & language. Lack of recognition by the media, recognition as IDPs and little political backing has resulted in the community losing their claim in the ongoing Kashmiri conundrum. Over the past few years, Kashmiri Pandits have tried to come back to Kashmir, with some backing from the state. But unfortunately, this has been met with protests from politicians in the valley as well as the Pandits. The Pandits are demanding better security and more economic assistance from the rehabilitation package. The valley politicians on the other hand do not want them to live in “Exclusive colonies” but come live together as Pandits are also part of the “motherland”. However, no valley politician has been able to give security guarantees to the Pandits. With ongoing protests in the valley, many are refusing to go back to work.

I actually agree with the author that the media and the elites of India have forgotten the community. The community has been left to fend for itself by the government and the people of India and especially Kashmir. Even writing about all this here makes me disheartened. Because, I know…deep down, there is very little hope that the Kashmiri Pandits will ever be able to go back home.

An Exegesis of Shashi Tharoor’s ‘An Era of Darkness’

An Era of Darkness by Dr. Shashi Tharoor is an extension of his infamous speech at the Oxford on the proposition ‘Britain owes Reparations to her Former Colonies’ which quite unexpectedly(to him) went astonishingly viral on most of the social networking portals. Comments flooded in huge numbers on the video link shared & much to the author’s surprise transmuted into one of the most hotly debated topics in the country that year. The video was shared 3 million times & may have been viewed by several million people across the world. This was perhaps a compelling reason why a good friend of his suggested him to pen down his arguments & the rationales behind them with proofs & apocryphal evidence wherever possible.

Naturally, the book has a lot of references, sometimes to the work of Indian authors of that time, but mostly to that of English authors who were righteous enough to capture the excesses meted out to the Indians by their British counterparts in their own country. The author hadn’t said anything tellingly new but the way he has explained each & every aspect of his arguments with refreshing tenor makes this book a riveting read. The book also attempts to answer a lot of counter arguments to the above proposition which Shashi couldn’t respond to during his speech at the Oxford, obviously due to the primacy of his argument & the time constraint to counter every riposte of theirs. Through this book, Shashi successfully dispels all the detracting arguments made by his opponents against the propositions in his much-vaunted speech that stir the world.

Quoting the author of this book from one of his previous works:- “One cannot take revenge upon history, history is its own revenge” encapsulate the purpose for which the book is written. This novel is to enlighten Indians about the necessity to understand the salience of their ancestors’ ordeal to achieve democracy, freedom, liberty & sovereignty from their oppressive rulers. That Indians were treated as second-class citizens in their own country, deprived of their artisanship, employment, land, and the onerous tax levied on them accentuate the gravity of the cruelty they were so mercilessly subjected to by their foreign rulers.

In the 18th century, India contributed 25% of the World’s GDP, but owing to almost 2 centuries of British rule, in 1950, India’s contribution to the world economy was dismal 1.3%. In fact, the population growth of India from 1900 to 1950 was 3.1% while the growth was paltry 0.7%. These numbers speak for themselves and convey the horrors that were apportioned to Indians during the Brutish Raj, as the author termed it in his book. If you consider the amount of wealth that was repatriated to England during those gloomy years of slavery, the value comes out to be close to 14million pounds every year for 190years along with the British inequities & racial transgressions faced by the Indians for those woeful years. It is pretty rich of the Britishers to claim that the democracy was the positive outcome for the Indians, from those dreadful years of misery. Britishers created deep fissures in the society, partly owing to their limited knowledge and understanding of complex interwoven societies spanning across the Indian subcontinent & partly due to their immoral machinations. Instead of understanding the intricacies, they made a sweeping generalization of Indian society as one ranging from north to south and east to west and brought them under the rule of law created and passed in London. Indian society arguably was a society with thin caste discrimination but the British reified it by dividing India’s society into different castes based on their profession. This accentuated the caste differences & weakened the society. Britishers, assiduously practiced this doctrine of ‘Divide & Rule’ to stave off a possible mutiny like they had experienced in 1857 when the masses, irrespective of their creed or caste, where sepohs both Hindus & Muslims fought for each other & were only outweighed due to superior weaponry & British chicanery. In fact, The author claims much of the present day caste oppression can be blamed to British insouciance to gross immoralities practiced in pre-Independence period. Britishers, never interfered in the societies immoralities & injustices til it didn’t threaten their profits or their assertion of the rule which safeguarded their profits. Instead of transforming the society into a cohesive force, they employed ‘Divide & Rule’ to meet their ends. Religion, as the author argues was never a defining characteristic of a pre-imperial rule Indian individual but the Britishers in their bid to weaken the bond outlined it with remarkable rigor. This all was done by just a few thousand Englishmen if not hundreds. Indians, as the authors of that era argue, were overwhelmed by their foreign oppressors’ superiority

Britishers ruled India & Indians, but most positions in the government were reserved only for Britishers. When eminent Indians like Dadabhai Naroji persisted with demanding greater autonomy of self-rule & important positions in the govt. the Raj conceded initially but the decision merely was an eyewash meant to contain then simmering outrage against their inequities and later through subterfuge hold all the decision-making power with themselves. The roles extended to Indians were at best frivolous and at worse spineless. It is one thing, to empower the masses with providing opportunities of ruling themselves and another thing, to duplicitously strip them off their power by passing a legislation superseding their roles & responsibilities by bestowing their heads with supreme powers to annul any legislation passed by the lower rung Indians.

The book has with great assiduity debunked all the possible arguments lionizing & defending the British Imperial Raj by systematically exposing the fallacies in their arguments & claims in a seemingly rigorous manner, in some cases, he has cited grotesque anecdotes that will always remain etched in my memories. He cites an example of how thumbs of the artisans of Dhaka, known for their handicraft & artisanship products, were spliced by Britishers since despite controlling the production prices & economic activities couldn’t weave clothes comparable to their quality. The book is replete with such anecdotes that not only boils your blood but also makes you pity for the sufferings of those helpless people. Shashi goes on to claim that the British tyranny was, if not excessive but equivalent to mass slaughtering or the Jew holocaust. Never in the history has the slaughter been inflicted in so ruthless and apparently arrogant manner.
Towards the end, Shashi makes a case as to why Kohinoor, the much-vaunted diamond of whom 6 countries lay claim to shouldn’t be demanded back by India. He says it should remain as a sign of British oppression & continue to remind us of the tyranny our ancestors faced at the ends of the cruel Englishmen. I personally think, no amount of words or the length of the article can justify or even come close to what has been so beautifully written by Dr. Shashi Tharoor. He has certainly set a precedent by challenging the banalities around our enslavement & written a thoroughly comprehensive book enlisting all our sufferings in great detail & with great objectivity to drive home the point why Britain owes reparations to her former colonies. It is not about the financial help that her colonies need, but about restoring the dignity that was wrenched & butchered in every second of its slavery.

The Verdict:

Although I’m a non-entity to review and recommend this book that’s been written by someone who has written 16 books but to aid my readers, I’d like to say this is the most heart-rending description of history you’d ever come across. Shashi has done a lot of hard work in putting his thoughts in this book, in being as objective as possible, though the temptations for being sentimental were overwhelming. I’d give this book 4.5/5. It’s a must read for all of you. Apart from the refreshing tenor of the banal history in this book, it is also laced with a lot of facts & quotes from different authors of foreign origin with their incisive take on Britain’s colonial imperialism.

The Romanticism of War between India and Pakistan

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” as stated by Sun Tzu ring so true especially when you picture the current scenario where two belligerents India and Pakistan are at loggerheads with each other owing to latter’s penchant for using Terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Since the terrorists inflicted grave wounds on the Indian Army soldiers, it was India’s riposte that everyone was looking forward to, much more the Pakistani hawks who are living in nothing but a fool’s paradise.

Pakistan is long been engrossed in a civil war as a result of their continued rendezvous with the Terrorism & their apparent perversion of using it as a state policy & holding it as a hostage to global peace order. But the cover is blown, World with the increasingly fraught environment has realized that supporting Pakistan is feeding Terrorism & hence major global powers have distanced themselves from it, although China still regards it as its all-weather ally but we can understand the devious intentions of China for doing so.

India, on one hand, can afflict serious injuries to Pakistan if she decides to have an all-out blown attack on its northwest frontier or it can swallow this setback & continue marching towards achieving its developmental goals unswervingly & determinedly. India should shed the romanticism of war, which may be, tempting & cloud the judgment of even the most prudent strategist out there. India should realize the ISI hawks in Pakistan are expecting such a reaction, not yielding to their needs will deflate them, for they are losing grip with their own populace. For about 70 years they have been thugging their people with the cry & hue of war with India that underlines the importance of the military in their country and provides them with an indubitable exercise of authority over its civil government. The power politics in Pakistan hinges on this proposition, India denying one such would make them lose their morale, inspire an intellectual churning in Pakistan & hopefully lead to a better environment for sanity to prevail & sustain which would ensue in the crackdown on Terror camps irrespective of their leanings & attaining a stable state of Pakistan.

The perennially riveting Harry Potter Books

Let me be very forthright before you peruse the article. I am an eternal Harry Potter fan and I love the entire series by J.K. Rowling in perpetuity. So, this might reflect in my obsequious flattery of the book and the author throughout this article. In fact, I have to concede a lot of my writings and my constant inspiration to write have emerged from being engrossed in Harry Potter books. They have chiseled with certitude, my thoughts, my way of thinking & certainly my way of writing. Fiction, I find it very difficult to write, because it demands author to be submerged in his thoughts with utmost concentration, actually visualizing stuff before writing it. It greatly expands the horizons and contours of one’s thinking.

We all avid readers have definitely read Harry Potter books, they are like the alphabets of the English language for the readers who love to read fiction books. Harry Potter books can be classified into Kids genre but it is definitely worth a read for all adults too. The books are so inexplicably interconnected and interwoven that often some leads in books are left open only to be pursued in a mystified way in the subsequent book or for that matter in the later books. J.K. rowling, for me, is one of the most cogent authors I have ever come across. Her narration is simple and lucid and her art of writing exquisite novels like the much vaunted Harry Potter saga is a testament to this art of hers. While reading these books, I was in awe of the author and the way she described the story, making you believe that this is the reality happening somewhere in the outskirts of London and for those who reside in London and have read these books, you couldn’t just help wondering where is Platform 9 3/4 at the London railway station. In fact, the best part of her story-telling is the way she accentuates a fictitious story as a real one, almost making you riveted over the turn of events that speckle the books in such a marvelous manner. At times, the fictional nature of the book becomes conspicuous but it’s not only done to outwit your predictions but also to captivate you for the ensuing drama.

These seminal novels by J.K. Rowling had a profound effect on the future of Fictional writing industry and acted as a pioneer in the way fiction was depicted in the movies. harry Potter books were rightly converted into movies which only added to its soaring popularity. One could say they had a symbiotic relationship in advancing each others’ interests. The books made crowds throng the theaters, the movies enjoined people to read the subsequent books. Very rarely in the history of the Cinema and Literature has the interest of both the fields coincided and advanced for their mutual benefits. Even today, people who have watched these movies never like to give them a miss. Gluttons like me are all glued to our TVs, shirking our otherwise important work only to once again live in those times where the drama & mystery unraveled left us in astonishment & incredulity.

Geopolitical Uncertainty and Business- II

In the last article it was discussed how geopolitical uncertainties effect business companies. Let us now look how some business companies exploit geopolitical instabilities and make profits out of crisis. Corporations take advantage of armed conflicts, sanctions, regime changes etc to do deals that are not in accordance with the international norms and rake in profits.

In 2012, Iran was under the sanctions put by the US and the EU over its uranium enrichment program. It faced great difficulties to trade oil and natural gas, of which it is a major exporter. Due to the ban, Iran’s four biggest oil buyers – China, India, Japan and South Korea – had reduced their imports by at least a fifth to secure exemptions from the threat of U.S. financial sanctions on their companies.During that time Iran was helped by a company named Vitol group to trade its oil to Chinese traders. Vitol bought 2 million barrels of fuel oil, used for power generation and supplied them to the Chinese. Now who is this Vitol group? How did they manage to pull of something under the radar. Well Vitol group is the world’s largest independent energy trader. It is the biggest private company in the world by sales. It is the ninth largest corporation in the world by revenue. It controls roughly 6.5% of the world’s oil market. It has more than 200 supertankers to ferry oil across the globe. On a single day, it handles more than 5 million barrels of oil. The tale of the cargo of Iranian fuel oil involves tanker tracking systems being switched off, two ship-to-ship transfers, and blending of the oil with fuel from another source to alter the cargo’s physical specification. Well, it just sounds like a scene out of a Bond-movie, doesn’t it? Not only Iran, Vitol also had dealings with Kurdish Regional Government, which controls the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. The Kurdish Regional Government(KRG)was facing a lot of financial crisis due to budge disputes with Baghdad. On top of that it needed money not only to pay its employees but also in its fight against the ISIS. So, in 2012, KRG with the assistance of Vitol bypassed Baghdad and sold oil independently in the global market. Vitol took delivery of a 12,000-tonne shipment of condensate, a light crude oil, worth more than $10m and helped its sale.

Other traders such as Glencore, Gunvor and Trafigura in oil and Louis Dreyfus and Bunge in grains use the chaos arising out of geopolitical uncertainties to their advantages and make profitable deals.

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